The Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF) is an initiative under the National Framework for Innovation and Enterprise (NFIE). ESVF seeds funds with selected venture capital firms to invest in Singapore-based early-stage technology start-ups.
Under this initiative, the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore invests S$10 million on a 1:1 matching basis, to seed venture capital (VC) funds that invest in Singapore-based early stage high-tech companies. As an incentive, the VCs have the option to buy out NRF’s share of the fund within five years by returning NRF’s capital with interest.
In July 2008, the NRF launched the Early Stage Venture Funding Scheme (ESVF) to finance VC funds to provide early stage investment for Singapore-based technology start-ups.
The first batch of five VC funds were:
In April 2014, NRF announced the second batch of VC funds under the ESVF scheme.
The six VC funds are:
Energising the Sector
With a vibrant technology start-up ecosystem taking shape and Singapore seeing encouraging results from its investments, a challenge for start-ups is limited early stage financing in Singapore and the region. To address this funding gap, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean, Chairman of the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore, announced on 25 Sep 2013 at Techventure 2013 that the Singapore government would inject S$50 million to energise the early stage investment ecosystem.
Download the press release and opening address by DPM Teo Chee Hean on the announcement.
NRF’s investments have been encouraging. The following are examples of ESVF investments that have received follow-up funding or acquired by other companies.
Clearbridge Biomedics adopts an innovative approach to detect and isolate tumour cells from blood samples. Its technology arose from research done in the National University of Singapore. Clearbridge was funded by an NRF-supported incubator Bioveda Capitaland supported by SPRING’s Biomedical Sciences Accelerator. The company recently managed to secure S$9 million from private and government-supported VC funds.
YFind Technologies Pte Ltd
YFind is a Singapore-based indoor positioning company which has developed an indoor location technology called YFind Positioning System based on existing WIFI infrastructure and smartphone handsets to enable location in intelligent buildings and cities. This technology enables users to find out the exact location search in indoor or dense urban environments, within three metres accuracy. YFind Technologies Pte Ltd was acquired in July 2013 by Ruckus Wireless, a Silicon Valley based supplier of advanced wireless systems.
Restaurant review portal HungryGoWhere.com is the leading food portal in Singapore, with additional online presence in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia. In 2012, HungryGoWhere.com was fully acquired by Singapore Telecommunications Limited (SingTel) for a sum of S$12 million.
 The National Framework for Innovation and Enterprise (NFIE) is a national programme to grow innovation and entrepreneurship in Singapore. The NFIE is administered by the National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore.
 This is in addition to an earlier injection of $50 million in 2008 to co-finance the establishment of five early stage venture funds in Singapore.